Sunday, September 19, 2010

An article for the FREE PRESS

Networking, knowledge sharing aim of heart conference

By Peter Carlyle-Gordge

For the Free Press

Winnipeg is often described as the heart of the continent.

The city is also becoming well known as a centre for excellence in the field of heart health, and that fact will again be illustrated Sept. 25 when the third Symposium on the Future of Heart Health will be held in the Sam Cohen Auditorium of the St. Boniface Research Centre.

The biennial gathering will attract some leading heart specialists, including Dr. David Taggart, Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery at Oxford University as well as Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at the world famous John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England.

Also slated to speak are: Dr. Ian Smith, General Director of the National Research Council Institute for Biodiagnostics; Dr. Jennifer Hall, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the Program in Translational Cardiovascular Genomics at Lillehei Heart Institute Developmental Biology Centre at the University of Minnesota; Dr. Arvind Koshal, Director of Development and External Affairs at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute; and Dr. Michael Mack, board chair of the Cardiopulmonary Research Science and Technology Institute, Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services and Director of Transplantation, at the Medical City Dallas Hospital.

Many other experts, including local ones, will be taking part in the Symposium which is organized by the University of Manitoba’s Cardiac Sciences program and by the International Academy of Cardiac Sciences.

Ivan Berkowitz, a conference coordinator who also has the title Heart Health Scholar, has long been dedicated to shining a bright light on the field of cardiovascular health and in getting heart specialists and researchers to network, compare notes, share knowledge and generally get more attention and funding for the discipline. “This Symposium isn’t overly technical so the layman can learn something from it, but it isn’t A-B-C stuff either,” Berkowitz says. “Our aim is to bring together a variety of experts who can share information and ideas.”

Berkowitz lost both parents to heart disease at relatively young ages, so he has a very personal interest in trying to advance the sharing of knowledge and improving both prevention and treatment programs.

“One problem is that hospitals and doctors are just so busy trying to treat people suffering with the disease that they have little time to focus on education and prevention,” he says. “New technologies and treatments are very important, but early detection and education programs to prevent the onset of the disease are also vital.”

He says heart health education presents a huge opportunity for a healthier society.“We know that 80 per cent of cardiovascular disease could be prevented but you have to start with young people,” he says. “About one in three deaths is cardiovascular related. It’s very important to see how other specialists are approaching treatment and prevention and that’s one reason the International Academy of Cardiac Sciences was established here. We want to get experts from all over the world talking to each other and sharing knowledge.”

The International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences (IACS) was founded in 1996 and is headquartered in Winnipeg. Established by renowned cardiovascular scientists, surgeons and cardiologists, the academy provides the organizational structure for the worldwide sharing of research and education information in the field of heart health.

Although great strides have been made in improving the death rate from heart disease, heart attacks and related problems are still the No. 1 killer. The academy believes that research has found answers but the facts are too slow in moving beyond the laboratories to the bedside. The Academy, through world-wide representation, builds connectivity and encourages networking through traditional means of journals, texts and symposia, a quarterly official bulletin CV Network, as well as through an interactive website: It aims to organize cardiovascular teach-ins all over the world for the continued education of practicing physicians, surgeons and experimental cardiologists. Another goal is to establish
cardiovascular forums in all major cities of the world for organizing and increasing the interaction of clinical cardiologists and surgeons with basic scientists.

The Academy is registered to give tax-deductible receipts in Canada (International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences Inc.) as well as in the United States (Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences Foundation USA Inc.). The Academy has been strongly supported locally by the Myles Robinson Memorial Heart Trust.

Berkowitz says we seem to be facing a global pandemic of cardiovascular disease “which shows all the signs of getting worse”. He says some experts claim this is due to the urbanization of many populations, a move that often goes along with a change for the worse in diet and less emphasis on physical exercise. He says fighting the disease depends on earlier detection, education and a cooperative, interactive approach to sharing knowledge and medical skills. “People do need to take better care of themselves and we all have room for improvement,” he adds. “I’m very proud that Winnipeg is able to attract so many distinguished heart specialists to discuss these challenges.”

Berkowitz has his own formula for staying well. His family has summered at a cottage on Trout Lake near Kenora since the 1940s and he’s developed his own program of diet and exercise. “I call it the Trout Lake Diet rather than the South Beach Diet,” he laughs.

The symposium will be moderated by CJOB radio’s Richard Cloutier and will begin with remarks by Dr. Michel Tetreault, president & CEO of St. Boniface Hospital. Also speaking will be Dr. Alan Menkis, the Medical Director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Cardiac Sciences Program. He is also Section Head of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Manitoba and was recently elected as a Fellow of the IACS.

Dr. Menkis, says gatherings like this one are vitally important in sharing knowledge and seeing the big picture in cardiac health care. “We cover the whole spectrum of heart health from politics to public police, clinical innovation and basic research,” he says. “Usually we gather some world-renowned leaders in the field so we learn from them and also raise public consciousness about this important field. The goal is to improve health knowledge and look at best practices as well as getting a message to the public.”

He says Winnipeg is also home to many talented heart specialists so the flow of knowledge and networking is two-way. “Outsiders can also learn from how we have totally reorganized the delivery of heart care in the hospitals in this province,” he says. “We can all learn a lot from each other so this kind of sharing and cooperation helps everyone.” Dr. Menkis says Winnipeg is already a highly respected hearth health centre and has attracted some very talented doctors and researchers from overseas. He says the work of the National Research Council and companies such as Winnipeg-based IMRIS, which manufactures a wide range of imaging equipment — including magnetic resonance imaging and x-ray angiography for structural heart disease and electrophysiology — is renowned around the world.

He added that some of the symposium sessions will be perfectly intelligible to the general public and he expects attendance to be anywhere from 100 to 200.

For more information: Contact Ivan Berkowitz at (204) 228 3193


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